Australian Government representatives marked the occasion at a special event in Paris.

21 December 2022

On 13 December Australian Government officials and First Nations Partners attended the global launch of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032, hosted at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.

The event was a spectacular showcase of indigenous cultures and languages across the world.

The Australian delegation included representatives from the Office of the Arts (OFTA), the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), First Languages Australia (FLA) and two First Nations representatives of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages Directions Group (Directions Group), and First Nations community members.

Highlights of the visit included:

  • A traditional ceremony by Indigenous peoples to mark the beginning of the International Decade.
  • Mr Craig Ritchie, CEO of AIATSIS, First Languages Australia and the Directions Group members delivered a joint presentation on Australia’s partnership approach to the International Decade at the Global Taskforce meeting on 12 December.
  • Australia and Canada co-hosting a joint breakfast bilateral engagement to discuss challenges, success stories and best practiced approaches in a multilingual context.
  • Karina Lester, FLA Board member and representative on the Global Taskforce, gifted an artwork in recognition of the important work by UNESCO.  
  • Ms Audrey Azouley, Director General accepted the painting on behalf of UNESCO. The painting is titled Ngura (Country) by Peter Mungkuri, Karina’s late grandfather, represents place as connection to family, skin groups and language.
  • Indigenous people from across the world exchanged wisdom through song, artwork, stories, oral knowledge and languages.

Australia’s approach to the International Decade is guided by the principle of ‘nothing for us- without us’ as we undertake a decade of activities to stop the loss of First Nations languages. The Australian delegation’s presentation shared how Australia is working in partnership with the Directions Group and First Nations stakeholders to develop and co-author the Australian Action Plan for the International Decade. The delegation also highlighted the challenges we face as a diverse nation of so many languages that require urgent attention.

The Australian delegation will bring this knowledge home to inform the development of Australia’s Action Plan, which will be presented at the Australian launch of the International Decade at the PULiiMA Indigenous Language and Technology Conference in August 2023.

Photo: The Australian Delegation representing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags  
Pictured left to right: Clayton Cruse, language educator and member of the Directions Group, Marianne Schafer-Gardiner, Office for the Arts, Jessica Hughes, Mobile Language Team, Karina Lester, First Languages Australia board member and Beau Williams First Languages Australia CEO. Missing from photo: Joyce Bonner (language practitioner) and Craig Ritchie (AIATSIS, CEO).  

Karina Lester gifted an artwork to UNESCO. Pictured left to right: Megan Anderson, Australian Ambassador to UNESCO, Craig Ritchie CEO of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Joyce Bonner, Language practitioner and Directions Group member, Karina Lester, First Languages Australia board member, Beau Williams, CEO of First Languages Australia, Jessica Hughes from the Mobile Languages Team and Audrey Azouley the Director General of UNESCO.

Ngura (Country) by Peter Mungkuri. Pictured: Attendees of the launch.